LeBron James’ teams often experience growing pains in the early going of a new season, especially with such high roster turnover over the summer. But not this year, as the Los Angeles Lakers have stormed back from a season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with six straight wins to claim the best record in the Western Conference (tied with the Boston Celtics for the best in the league.)
Last week’s best team, the Philadelphia 76ers, are still right up there in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve been grounded with two straight losses. The Celtics are looking great early, as are Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
In the Western Conference, we’ve got a slew of good teams. I count at least eight but as many as ten, if you think the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves hot starts aren’t complete flukes.
Power Rankings Post-Week 2
- Los Angeles Lakers (6-1) [Last Week: 3]
- Los Angeles is rolling with six straight wins. LeBron James has three straight triple doubles, and just might average one for the season in this roll. Wins over the Jazz, Mavericks, and Spurs were the most impressive so far. The bench proved it can win games for LA in a 19-point comeback over the Bulls on Tuesday.
- Los Angeles Clippers (6-3) [Last Week: 2]
- The Clippers have three losses, but two have came in the absence of Kawhi Leonard. While it’s frustrating for NBA fans, I don’t see the strategy ending any time soon. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could enter the playoffs with 65 games or less of wear and tear on their bodies.
- Philadelphia 76ers (5-2) [Last Week: 1]
- After being the league’s last undefeated team at 5-0, the 76ers were grounded with losses to the Suns and Jazz. They were tough losses against opponents who are playing well, so I don’t fault them too much, and I’m still comfortable calling them the best team in the East.
- Milwaukee Bucks (6-2) [Last Week: 6]
- The Bucks have gone 4-0 since last week’s Power Rankings, with wins over the Magic, Raptors, Timberwolves, and Clippers sans Kawhi Leonard. After a shaky first week, Milwaukee is primed to be an Eastern Conference powerhouse once again.
- Boston Celtics (6-1) [Last Week: 9]
- The Celtics 6-1 record certainly jumps off the page: it’s the best mark in the East and tied for the best in the NBA. Upon further inspection, the Celtics have two quality wins (by 11 over the Bucks and 8 over the Raptors) and four wins against less than stellar opponents (Knicks twice, Cavaliers, Hornets.) Boston’s lone loss came against the 76ers.
- Dallas Mavericks (5-2) [Last Week: 11]
- Dallas went 2-1 this week and has broken into the Top 10. It’s a great start to their season, but they need to sustain their winning ways over a long season to compete in the Western Conference. They hold a +4.0 point differential, 5th in the West despite their 2nd place standing based on record.
- Miami Heat (6-2) [Last Week: 10]
- Things are going better than expected early on for Jimmy Butler and the Heat. 2-1 this week with wins over the Suns and Rockets, who both hold winning records.
- Utah Jazz (5-3) [Last Week: 4]
- A 1-2 week saw the Jazz fall to the Clippers and Kings, but bounce back to beat a good 76ers team by two points. Utah’s defense is elite: 96.6 PPG allowed is the fewest in the league. But their 100.8 PPG scored offensively is 27th in the NBA.
- Denver Nuggets (5-2) [Last Week: 15]
- Denver shoots up six spots after a 2-0 week, and things are looking back on track for the team that finished with the 2nd best record in the West last year.
- San Antonio Spurs (5-3) [Last Week: 8]
- The Spurs split their games 2-2 this week. They’re still tougher than most teams in the East and a good number of teams in the West.
- Phoenix Suns (5-3) [Last Week: 14]
- I’m not sure if the Suns will be good all season long, but a 2-1 week with a win over the 76ers was enough to keep me impressed in the season’s early weeks.
- Toronto Raptors (5-2) [Last Week: 12]
- Toronto has a decent record, but not exactly any head-turning wins… they’re strongest opponent they’ve beaten so far is the 3-6 Chicago Bulls.
- Houston Rockets (5-3) [Last Week: 5]
- Honestly this might even be a little high for a team being outscored by 1.3 points per game, when teams that have positive margins are still on the board. I think Westbrook and Harden figure something out, but who’s going to play defense?
- Minnesota Timberwolves (4-3) [Last Week: 7]
- From #21 (Pre-Season), to #7 (last week) to #14. I have the Minnesota Timberwolves all over the place. I was high on them at 3-1, but this week they suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of the Bucks and Grizzlies.
- Portland Trailblazers (3-5) [Last Week: 13]
- Portland failed to win a game this week, going 0-3. They lost tight matchups to the 76ers and Clippers, worthy opponents. They were also handled easily by the Warriors without Curry or Green on the court. They’ll need to win some games to bounce back.
- Indiana Pacers (4-4) [Last Week: 25]
- After starting 1-3, the Pacers rebounded with a 3-1 week. All four of their wins have come against teams with losing records. So while they’re not world-beaters, the huge drop-off in the Eastern Conference after the top teams means they’re still a likely playoff team.
- Detroit Pistons (4-5) [Last Week: 16]
- A 2-2 week for the Pistons, but all four games were against pretty bad competition (Knicks, Nets, Wizards, Bulls.) Can’t be mad at a 2-2 split, but you’d like to see them do better when the schedule is softer.
- Brooklyn Nets (3-4) [Last Week: 24]
- After opening at 1-3, the Nets won two of their three matchups this week, beating the Pelicans and Rockets. They now hold a positive point differential at +0.7 PPG.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (3-5) [Last Week: 17]
- OKC enjoyed a 2-1 week with wins over the Magic and Pelicans. You could argue they’ve played better in some of their losses, like to the Rockets and Trailblazers.
- Atlanta Hawks (3-5) [Last Week: 18]
- After a bubbly 2-0 start, the Hawks have dropped five of six games since then. Still, this team isn’t the pushover I thought they would be.
- Chicago Bulls (3-6) [Last Week: 27]
- The Bulls went 2-2 this week with wins over the Hawks and Pistons. They had a 19-point lead on the Lakers but squandered it in the fourth quarter.
- Charlotte Hornets (4-4) [Last Week: 23]
- Charlotte is 4-4, going 2-1 over the past week, but make no mistake, they’re not a good team. Their three most recent wins came over the Kings, Warriors, and a more quality Pacers team. The Hornet are being outscored by 7.6 points per game.
- Washington Wizards (2-5) [Last Week: 20]
- Bradley Beal is putting up 27 points per game, but the Wizards need more help to win games. 1-2 this week to stay in the same range for this week’s power rankings.
- Orlando Magic (2-6) [Last Week: 19]
- The Magic surprised me with a 2-2 start, but with an 0-4 week, there were no surprises this time in Orlando.
- Memphis Grizzlies (2-5) [Last Week: 29]
- The Grizzlies beat the Timberwolves by 16 for their second win of the season. Memphis is scoring 110.0 PPG: nothing crazy, but more than the typically defensive-minded team used to score.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (2-5) [Last Week: 22]
- After starting 2-2, the Cavaliers have also fallen cold, just like the Magic. Three losses this week (Pacers, Mavericks, Celtics) came against good competition.
- New Orleans Pelicans (1-6) [Last Week: 21]
- The Pelicans have been mired with injuries, and have one of the worst records in the league. I’d still take this team over the Warriors in most cases, although Golden State took the head-to-head matchup. The 5.0 points per game the Pelicans are being outscored by could be worse.
- Golden State Warriors (2-6) [Last Week: 28]
- The Warriors went 1-3 last week, just like last week. Their 127-118 win over Portland, fuled by Eric Paschall, was fun for sure. But Golden State wins will be few and far inbetween this season.
- Sacramento Kings (2-6) [Last Week: 30]
- The Kings escape the basement with a pair of wins over the Knicks and Jazz to get to 2-6.
- New York Knicks (1-7) [Last Week: 26]
- What’s that smell burning in the air? Could it be the New York Knicks dumpster fire? 0-4 this week with double digit losses to the Kings and Pistons has the Knicks as the newly-crowned worst team in the NBA. Outscored by a league-high 10.5 PPG.
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Header Photo Credit: Acquired via Sports Illustrated.com